Obama pledges cooperation in outreach to business
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday he would collaborate with business to cut red tape and ease corporate taxes, acknowledging the need for a period of "healing" after his major reform of Wall Street regulation.
Taking a hands-on approach in the debate about how to lift growth and hiring, just weeks before congressional elections where unemployment will be a dominant theme, Obama stressed that he was open to ideas from the private sector.
"Having taken a series of steps that were necessary, it is important now that there is a period of healing and consolidation and implementation that is less disruptive," Obama told an economic advisory panel at the White House.
One of the panel members, Mark Gallogly of Centerbridge Partners, a New York private equity firm, suggested a system of cutting an old rule for every new law added to the books.
Firms complain that too many regulations raise the cost of doing business and put a brake on expansion and hiring.
Obama said the White House was looking at this issue.
"What we are trying to do is go through very systematically to see where we can eliminate unnecessary red tape, unnecessary bureaucracy, regulations that have outlived their usefulness," he said.
The event, chaired by former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, included General Electric boss Jeffrey Immelt, Caterpillar Inc Chairman Jim Owens, UBS Group Americas Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Wolf, as well as representatives from academia and labor.
Republicans, who are widely expected to make major gains in the November 2 elections, say Obama's regulatory reforms of Wall Street created uncertainty and brand him as anti-business.
They also criticize Obama's plan to allow Bush-era tax cuts for more affluent U.S. households to expire at the end of December. Obama has said he is only willing to extend the tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 and individuals making less than $200,000 a year.
Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economics professor who advised Republican President Ronald Reagan, urged Obama to extend all the tax cuts for two years, arguing that this would help boost U.S. consumer confidence and spending.
Obama said the rich had already benefited handsomely from buoyant U.S. productivity growth in recent years, as he reiterated the country could not afford to extend this top tier of tax cuts and meet a long-term challenge to cut the deficit.
"Down the road, we're going to have make decisions about spending cuts to offset whatever tax breaks or expenditures we put out there," Obama said.
But he stressed that his administration was looking hard at ways to reduce the tax burden on companies.
"If there are ideas whereby we can lower corporate tax rates in a way that does not massively add to our deficit, but instead revolves around tax loopholes ... that is something that we would be very interested in and we think could eliminate uncertainty," he said.
At a top marginal rate of 35 percent, corporate income taxes in the United States are among the highest in the world, and big business often complains it hurts competitiveness. Many groups, including Democrats, support lowering the rates, but they argue about how to make up the lost revenue.
(Additional reporting by Kim Dixon, Matt Spetalnick, Ross Colvin and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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